Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday described China’s promise of economic aid to the Philippines as “a pittance” compared to the resources it will receive from claiming over 300,000 square kilometers of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which is larger than its total land area.
But Carpio also expressed confidence the Philippines can muster an “overwhelming majority” of allies against China if it pursues before the United Nations the enforcement of the arbitral ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, which favored Manila and rejected Beijing’s excessive claims over the South China Sea.
Carpio, a strong advocate of asserting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, said China was claiming 80 percent of the country’s EEZ as part of its alleged nine-dash line, which is equivalent to about 300,000 square kilometers.
"How can you say that they are our friend when they are grabbing our backyard? They’re grabbing our fish, gas and all our natural resources. This is the biggest threat to Philippine national security at present and in the next 25 to 50 years," Carpio told ANC.
"We are going to lose maritime space larger than our total land area.
What Philippine leader can explain that to future generations of Filipinos? We have to stand pat on this."
When President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, he shelved the 2016 arbitral award in exchange for loans and investments from Beijing.
China had promised $24 billion in loans and investments to the Philippines, but only 5 percent of that had materialized.
"Even if the entire $24 billion has materialized, that’s a pittance compared to the value of the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in the West Philippine Sea," Carpio said.
He also said the Philippines had stopped benefiting from the Chinese tourists, who have stopped coming due to lockdowns meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Carpio says China also regards Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs as illegal and has stopped issuing passports to its workers.
"There are no loans and investments as promised. No tourists, no POGOs. What can we get out of this? Nothing. We have set aside the ruling for nothing. That is the way China is trying to win: by promising something and delivering nothing," Carpio said.
However, Duterte last week declared before the United Nations General Assembly that the Philippines "firmly rejects" any attempts to undermine the 2016 PCA ruling.
Carpio said the Philippines had the backing of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, which gave “much, much more than what China has given to other countries.”
"Once we get the support of these other countries, the big powers, I think we will get an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly," Carpio said.
He says the UN is considered the “locus” and “moral force” of world opinion. Smaller countries had previously won against their more powerful counterparts before the UN, citing the case of Nicaragua against the US, Mauritius against the UK and the Netherlands against Russia.
"This will happen to China if we play it right... The other countries are just waiting for us to move," Carpio said.